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Our Approach

Minnesota is rightfully lauded as a leader in supporting artists and the arts ecosystems in which they work. The McKnight Foundation plays an important role in sustaining this leadership and continuing to advocate for and support working artists.

McKnight values the overall health of the arts sector in Minnesota. Within that sector, our program focuses specifically on working artists and the organizations and systems that help them advance artistically and professionally. This focus reflects our long-term interest in supporting working artists, which includes the creation of the McKnight Artist Fellowships in 1981.

Support for working artists has been a mainstay of the Arts program since it began. In 2010, following a comprehensive program and sector evaluation, McKnight's board of directors decided to focus on impact at the source: the artists. By ensuring that Minnesota is a place that artists choose to live and work, McKnight improves the quality of life, quality of community, and quality of opportunity for all Minnesotans.

Our current grantmaking supports organizations that value working artists. It is guided by three interrelated concepts: research on artist support structures, our arts program logic model, and our arts program theory of change.

Artist Support Structures

Data undergirding our work in the arts comes from a landmark survey for the Urban Institute report, Investing in Creativity: A Study of the Support Structure for U.S. Artists. The study surfaced how society undervalues the contribution of artists to community. It found that "96 percent of respondents said they were greatly inspired and moved by various kinds of art" but "only 27 percent of respondents said that artists contribute 'a lot' to the good of society." We utilize the support structure model as a tool in guiding our grantmaking.

Logic Model

Our logic model is the practical map from our two strategies, through our program's many activities (including but not limited to grantmaking), and ultimately to the outcomes our arts program strives to achieve. Grantmaking is included, but it is only one of several other important resources that we deploy, such as convenings, policy work, research, and relationship building.

Theory of Change

A final lens through which to view our approach is a theory of change. Our arts program theory of change is rooted in a mutually beneficial cycle in which artists contribute artistically, socially, culturally, and economically to a thriving Minnesota, while the state and its communities create the opportunity for working artists to thrive artistically and professionally. It has four main elements.